The world lost one of “the good guys” Monday, June 15, 2015. James Ward Wheeler, 37, of Edmond, OK, passed from this earth after suffering two massive strokes.
James Wheeler was born January 30th, 1978. A lanky and ornery kid, he grew up in Midwest City, Oklahoma. James and his sister, Trina, were always in some type of mischief that typically involved their sister, Sherri, who was deaf and used a wheelchair. Sherri was an excellent lip reader and the siblings would often convince her to spy on others and then relay the conversations to them via sign language.
At the age of 12, James assisted Sherri as she attended Make Promises Happen, a recreational program for individuals with special needs at Central Christian Camp. His life was forever changed by this event as he continued volunteering as a counselor and eventually began directing MPH events as well. It was during this time, that a beautiful, young woman named Elisha Blount began also volunteering. Elisha quickly fell in love with James’s passion for serving others. The two were married on June 5, 1999. Shortly thereafter, James was offered the newly created Director of Programming position at CCC. He held this job until he was promoted to Executive Director of CCC in 2013. That same year, Elisha left the field of special education to work alongside her husband as the Director of Operations.
CCC and MPH was a family affair. James and Elisha had two beautiful daughters who were as comfortable playing in the cabins at camp, as they were in their own home. As a devoted father, James loved watching Kyra play basketball and they treasured special time spent together during the MPH ski trip each year. Kennedi and her daddy shared a love of playing games and tickle wars. Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang was one of James’s favorite movies to share with his girls. James’s other loves included Oklahoma State sports; eagles; Diet Dr. Pepper; Italian food; no bake cookies, Hello Dollies, oatmeal chocolate chip cookies; lateral thinking puzzles; the movies, Blazing Saddles, Hair, Chorus Line, Airplane, The Butterfly Effect; pepper; wind chimes; the Philadelphia Eagles; M.C. Escher; good shoes; Stephen King novels; and of course, camp.
What began with his sister, Sherri, became James’s passion and life’s work, advocating and creating recreational opportunities for individuals with special needs. James was a visionary and under his direction, the programs and facilities of CCC and MPH expanded and thrived. There was no challenge presented to him that he could not problem solve and conquer, especially when it came to issues involving persons with special needs. James was the epitome of teaching others to live a “Life Without Limits.” He was one of the most selfless, genuine, encouraging, and influential people ever to grace the earth. He mentored countless young people and was loved by so many. Over the years, James also developed very special relationships with many of MPH’s campers, including Kyle, Jimmy, Emily, Jay, Steven, Jared, Chris, and others. Many of these friends, along with his co-worker and friend, Susan, were already waiting to welcome James into Heaven’s Camp. James’s final act of service was forever changing 300 lives with donations of 6 organs, bone, and tissue.
James is survived by his devoted wife, Elisha Blount Wheeler, and two daughters, Kyra, 11, and Kennedi, 5; his mother, Linda Sands, of Midwest City, Oklahoma; grandmother, Mildred Nickels, of Pink, Oklahoma; sister and brother-in-law, Trina and James Dart, and their children, Keegan, Karson, and Kexleigh, of Midwest City; sister, Sherri Wheeler, of Midwest City; his father, Robert Franklin of Sand Springs, Oklahoma; numerous aunts and uncles; a very close group of cousins; and multitudes of friends and camp family.
He is preceded in death by his grandfather, Lyle Nickels.
Memorial services will be held at 2:02 PM, Tuesday, June 23, 2015 at First Christian Church, Guthrie (402 East Noble, Guthrie, Oklahoma) with Reverend Amy Rogers officiating. Arrangements are under the direction of Smith-Gallo Funeral Home.
A Celebration of Life will be held August 15, 2015 at 4:04 pm at Central Christian Camp and Conference Center. Details to be posted at a later time to the camp Facebook page “Central Christian Camp and Make Promises Happen”.
James was continually fundraising for Central Christian Camp and the Make Promises Happen program. In fact, at the hospital the medical providers asked many questions about his work at CCC. He would describe the programs and the individuals served and end the conversation with “And we accept donations.” Aside from his family, there was nothing more important than camp and “Changing Lives One Camp at a Time.”
If you are interested in honoring the life of James Wheeler by changing a life, please consider one or more of the following:
Monetary donations can be made to Central Christian Camp and Make Promises Happen, 1 Twin Cedar Lane, Guthrie, OK 73044. Interested volunteers, ages 15 and older, for the Make Promises Happen program and/or prospective campers, age 6 and older, please contact 1-800-299-2811 or go to www.centralchristiancamp.org for more information.
Donations to assist his wife and daughters with medical, funeral, and living expenses can be made at www.youcaring.com/WeLoveJamesWheeler.
Contributions toward a college fund for his daughters, Kyra and Kennedi, is currently being established at Interbank in Guthrie, (405) 282-0470, www.interbank.com